Stinking Thinking

Some of you may remember from my book, “Turning Blue to Blue: How God Used Art to Lift My Depression”, that I have watched and learned from some of the saddest reality shows. Well, I came upon another lesson recently.
The show follows morbidly obese people for a year after their weight loss surgery. In the season finale, a woman believed to be 800 pounds was featured. They were not able to weight her initially due to timing and health concerns.

Her background story was that she had been kidnapped and held at gunpoint by her boyfriend after trying to end their relationship. He managed to escape after killing 2 police officers who had come to rescue her. She continued to fear for her life and hid in her home for years. Food became her comfort. Now she is in her early 40s and wants to change her life.

Due to the severity of her situation, surgery is immediately performed on her. Usually the doctor asks patients to lose 50 or so pounds first to see how serious they are and what kind of family support they have. After surgery it is usually advised to get up and walk as soon as possible. But this patient refused to even try. She would tell the physical therapists at the hospital to come back later. She was busy on her laptop. That went on for several months. Eventually, the doctor sent her home. Despite family that seemed supportive, she continued to refuse to try to walk for 10 months. Finally, at a family member’s request, the doctor came to her home and coaxed her into allowing the paramedics to help her stand. They showed her standing twice in a row for about 5 seconds each. Afterwards she smiled and seemed so relieved. She said she hadn’t believed her legs could hold her. That’s why she wouldn’t try.

Now I realize this is “reality” TV. It was edited in such a way to make it a compelling story. It ended on a hopeful note that now she would continue the hard work to regain her mobility. However, the lesson for me was powerful.

I’ve been watching that show for years and have seen the miraculous physical and emotional breakthroughs patients have had in their first 12 months. But because this woman didn’t believe she could stand, she shut herself down from trying or even getting more help. Many of the patients see a therapist and I certainly think that would have been beneficial for her. So in effect, 11 months were wasted. At 600 – 800 lbs, every day is precious and proven professionals offering help is a godsend.

I thought about myself and some other people close to me. How long have we been refusing to “stand”, because we don’t believe we can, when all the while we have access to everything we need to not just walk but run? What we believe about ourselves and our situations is so powerful. We just can’t allow stinking thinking to hold us back any longer.

Everyday I’m working on freeing my mind. At some points in the day I may need to recite a scripture or sing myself a song. My meds continue to help and so does my art. Through inspirational words on my Facebook page, my writing workshop, my art workshops or talking with me one on one, I hope to encourage those I can touch to free themselves from self-doubt, self-hate, perfectionism, anger and fear.

Three reasons why I’m not trying to sell you my art

3 ladiesYeah, so here are three reasons I’m not trying to sell you my art:

1) No one has ever sold me any art. I have enjoyed viewing and buying art for the last 12 years. I have purchased several pieces for enjoyment purposes. I was out browsing, usually for something else and a piece would catch my eye and my heart. I would buy it on the spot. Only once have I bought an “investment” piece.  But I didn’t buy it for the investment possibilities. Proof of that is I spent lavishly on the framing and the next person to own it won’t care at all, beyond that the LE was well protected.

2) Original art is not a 2014 car. No one needs to explain anything to you about my art when you are looking at it. The title might make you smile. The measurements might help you figure where you are gonna put it, but that information usually comes with/near the art. No one needs to convince you that the acrylic paint used is the coolest new color and your neighbors will be jealous. (Although they very well might be. Just sayin’.)

The story of how my art was birthed out of direct instruction from God to draw, and that without any training and little confidence in my abilities, I launched My Blue is Blue is encouraging or inspiring to some. It may cause you to take a second look at a piece. But it won’t make you buy it.

3) The folks who happily spend $49.99 on a two by three foot reproduction of abstract art are not my customers. I have nothing against those folks. Mass reproduction and distribution have made it very easy for everyone to afford eye catching pieces. I have nothing against the art or the companies that are churning the stuff out. I hope the artists are being properly compensated, but I suspect all those talented, unknown artists somewhere in China are not being paid fairly.

I’ve never wanted to run with the crowd. I never wanted art that I had seen or might see on someone else’s walls. And even though I didn’t know that for what I was willing to spend, I could have had original art, I chose unusual pieces that spoke to me as a woman and as a person of color. I chose pieces that made me smile or added to my sense of peace.

I’m an artist. That’s how I earn my living now. I paint almost daily as part of my continuing therapy. I have produced a lot of art. Almost all of it is for sale. If you see something that grabs you, don’t let price stand in the way. If you’d like something completely unique, I’d love to create it. However, I’m never gonna try to sell you something.

Why I went to a 7:30 am meeting

Yesterday I agreed to attend a networking meeting hosted by a friend. When he said it was at 7:30 am, I thought he was joking. Who wants to meet new people at 7:30 in the morning? I agreed for two reasons: I wanted to support him and I backed out the last time he invited me to a networking event. (And that one was at a reasonable hour.)

I also thought I might get a free bistro-style breakfast out of it.

Now, it’s not that I’m not up at 7:30. On the day before, I had a load in the washer and had been on my knees to scrub half the grout lines in my kitchen’s ceramic tile floor by then. But I was unwashed and wearing only one of my husband’s shirts.

So at about 11 pm last night, I told myself, “I’m going, but if I hit any major hurdle, I’ll bail-out.” This removed some of the stress of picking out an outfit, getting my directions and navigating morning traffic.  If I couldn’t match up an outfit, if the closet had caused my pants to shrink again, if anything needed to be ironed, I was off the hook.

I continued that mantra as I laid out my clothes and prepared to shower this morning. I calmly checked Mapquest.com, which said it was only a 21 minute drive. “Hmm, wonder if that is what I will really find.” I headed out at about 6:55 am. As I was cruising up the tollway, I thought more about why I was risking having to deal with commuter traffic and a roomful of strangers. Was I kinda dumb, gullible, a pleaser? Would I regret using the gas and toll money? Then, suddenly my whole outlook changed.

I said to myself, “Hey, I’m up, showered, dressed, and out of the house before 7 am! My morning has tremendous possibilities. Even if I were to wipe-out in the meeting, (which I won’t) afterwards I can go find a place to write and think and plan for a few hours.

Interacting with other humans before 8 am is what super successful folks do. Hey, networking is what super successful people do. O.k., regardless of outcome, this is a worthwhile adventure. And Pastor asked us to prepare for a breakthrough this week. I suppose I should do something different to help usher that in.”

English: High Speed Business Networking Event ...

English: High Speed Business Networking Event (Paris, 2006) by JCI. Français  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, there was no free breakfast, but I connected to seven out of about 20 professionals. They are people I want to partner with, can learn from or become their customer. We will see what develops.

Guest Post from To Write Love On Her Arms

CHALLENGING STIGMA.

  • Posted on: 9 September 2013
  • By: Aaron Moore

If TWLOHA were to update a status for this week, it would read that we feel “hopeful.” Much preparation has gone into 2013’s National Suicide Prevention Week, as it is a unique opportunity to address a topic so often neglected in our world. This week never ceases to be something beautiful, a chance to fight for the lives of loved ones, strangers, maybe even ourselves. At the same time, however, this week can feel like a necessary evil for many of us. It may remind us of those we’ve lost or of our own struggles. In this way, National Suicide Prevention Week is something we wish we did not need, but sadly, we have great reason to engage in. Which is why many organizations and groups are using this time to focus on the stigma and shame that keep these important conversations from happening.

We have said in the past that we know stigma is built on lies. It is founded and fed by the myths we believe about mental health issues and about those who struggle with them. Perhaps it is the lie that suicide only affects people who are “messed up,” the idea that depression only reaches those who are weak, or even the belief that if we share our struggles with someone, they will not understand or care. But the more we learn the truth about these difficult topics, the more we can bring it into the light and move toward healing and recovery, as well as the work of prevention. We have to learn that issues like depression, addiction, and suicide are not partial to weak people, but are struggles any of us may walk through, simply because we are human. We have to continue to filter the lies and myths about mental illness out of our society, replacing them with facts. This will go an incredibly long way toward eradicating the stigma that is still so prevalent.

But just knowing the truth is not enough. While stigma may be founded on lies, it is also built within a social context, woven throughout the intricate fabric of our relationships. It is within our society and culture that the effects of stigma are felt. These effects range from the silence and shame surrounding mental health issues to the oppressive attitudes toward those struggling, even influencing the way treatment options such as therapy and medication are viewed. The powerful stigma attached to mental health communicates an illusion of separation between those who struggle and those who don’t—a false dichotomy between the healthy and the sick. The damage this creates extends across our society and into each of our lives and relationships.

As we work to reduce the stigma attached to mental health, we can learn much from the fight against the stigma connected with HIV. One main way it was reduced was through learning the truth about HIV—how it was transmitted, who had it, what treatment looked like, and more. This knowledge went far in combatting some vicious lies that hurt so many in our society. But some research pointed to yet another component that proved powerful in greatly reducing stigma toward HIV: individuals who had a friendship or relationship with someone who was HIV-positive. Those with a personal connection to someone with HIV were drastically less likely to have a stigmatized, discriminating response.

What does this mean for us? It means we need each other. We need relationships and community around us. It means we have to continue listening to each other’s stories, and we must continue sharing our own. We need to know each other’s accounts of suffering, as well as our experiences of healing and recovery.

Thomas Joiner, one of the foremost researchers in the subject of suicide, has found that one of the most common thoughts present in those who are suicidal is the idea of being a burden on others. A second was that of being “hopelessly alienated, cut off and isolated from others”—a feeling of not belonging. Both of these speak to the power of our relationships and communities, whether or not we realize it.

The more we walk through our struggles in silence, the more we deprive others of the benefit of knowing they are not alone. Knowing the truth about the issues isvital, but we can get it from a textbook or Google in just a moment. Unless it is connected with real people, it lacks the power needed to combat stigma. We have to move beyond an awareness of the issues and become truly aware of each other.

Real relationships are the true antidote to the separation that stigma breeds between “healthy” and “sick.” Relationships require us to see the real person who is suffering, struggling, recovering, and healing. They are the place in which we find hope and encouragement to keep fighting, and the place where lies are defeated with truth and compassion. This is the path toward hope and healing—for ourselves and each other—and ultimately, toward a society where stigma, shame, and suicide are struggles of the past.

Aaron Moore is a licensed mental health counselor and co-founder of Solace Counseling in Orlando, FL. You can also hear him speak at MOVE Community Conferences.

 

http://twloha.com/blog/challenging-stigma

The Makeover

I was selected for a business women’s makeover by internationally acclaimed transformational makeover expert Eve Michaels on Thursday. The makeover included hair, make-up and an outfit. I had the opportunity to model my “after” look in front of a business crowd. I also got information on how to style myself as an artist. I was super excited for this opportunity. “What NOT to Wear” has been one of my favorite shows. I’ve learned some good general points from Stacy and Clinton. The opportunity, however, for personalized instruction from Ms. Michaels was so precious and inspiring.

Points Ms. Michael reinforced for me included:

  • jewel tones ( sapphire, jade, amethyst) look best on me
  • a supportive bra is an everyday essential
  • expensive clothes don’t have to be if you know where to shop
  • thrift store finds can be figure-flattering if you compare your measurements to those of the garment and have a neighborhood tailor

New things I learned:

  • my eye glasses are too rectangular for my face, and too narrow so that they cut my eye space (eyebrow to bottom of eye socket) in half
  • wider and rounder frames would be more attractive
  • “droopy” hair elongates my face and makes me look sad
  • more height to my hair will be more complimentary
  • a more flattering, attractive, artistic look may actually help me sell more art at better pricesIMG_2065

Perhaps the bottom line for me is, I could be doing better with my daily presentation of Kartika: the wife, mom, artist and author. Too often I rush and throw something together and skip the make-up. Years ago I had gotten my make-up application down to 7 minutes. But recently the thought came to me, why should I rush? Why shouldn’t I take 30 minutes to create the day’s look? For me the “whys” speak to some underlying issues. Had I believed I wasn’t worth the time? Had I believed it was vain to make the effort. Was I uncomfortable with “looking great” or “looking sexy”?

I’ll continue to dig into those issues. In the meantime, I’m reading Ms. Michael’s new book, Dress Code: Ending Fashion Anarchy. She has a 3 day makeover boot-camp coming up in September which I’d love to attend!

Please learn more about Eve Michaels and her life-work at her website.

www.http://evemichaels.com/

Ladies, wanna weigh in on these issues? I’d love to hear from you!

Guest Post from Dr. Angela Hargrow

Tough Love

Tough love is a term that is often used when parents treats their children in ways that some might call harsh, with the sole intent to help them in the long run. The use of tough love has been scrutinized by many as nothing more than reasons to be unnecessarily harsh and punitive towards kids who are already suffering. I believe we can use tough love with kids who have mental illnesses. This form of tough love means loving them enough to set tighter boundaries and allowing them to experience natural consequences. When our children are mean or act poorly with others who then reject them, we have to love them enough to not only let them feel the pain of that rejection but to talk with them about how their behaviors puts others off. When they don’t do their homework and we are stressed out by arguing with them, communicating with their teachers, and frustrated by keeping up with their assignments, then we have to be tough enough to let them live with the consequences of their actions, even if it’s a failing grade. Life’s experiences will begin to help us motivate them to understand their own illnesses and to work with us to help them not only manage their symptoms but also to manage their complete lives.

Tough love means not always avoiding the tantrums, tears, and rages. It means holding tight the boundaries that not only we have set but those set by society because our children will have to live by those boundaries someday without us. Tough love means we stop making so many adjustments to keep them happy because we feel bad that their friends didn’t call or they missed out on a school trip because of their behavior. And yes, it means letting them fail a grade or even letting them leave your house when they reach a certain age. Sure, it will be hard to watch them falter, fall, and sometimes fail.  With our guidance life can be a great teacher if we use its experiences to teach our children. It will be tough, but we have to love them enough to help them succeed by not holding their hands and feelings so afraid for them. We have to be tough enough and love them enough to let them go so they can stand on their own two feet.

http://ahargrow.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/tough-love/

Angela Hargrow is a licensed psychologist with over 15 years of experience. Not only does she have a child who has been diagnosed with a mood disorder but also she has worked extensively with parents of children who have a variety of mental illnesses. She has used her experiences as a parent and as a psychologist to help families understand their child/teen’s disorder and to cope with the stressful impact that the disorder has on not only the child but the entire family. Used with permission

Inner Peace Counseling Services, PLLC

1931 J. N. Pease Place, Suite 202
Charlotte, NC 28262

1-704-717-2800
Tue: 3-8pm
Thurs: 4pm – 8pm
Every Other Sat: 9am-2pm

The Best Vitamins

Vitamins!

Vitamins! (Photo credit: bradley j)

So part of my overall health regimen includes taking a multi-vitamin. I started with some off brand gummies that I was giving my daughter while she was visiting during the summer of 2011.  She kept making faces or trying to hide when I gave them to her. “What’s all that about? Gummies are good.” I said.

She just gave me her sad face.

Well of course one morning I popped in a couple to prove her wrong. Gracious, they were terrible! I apologized profusely to my daughter.

The next morning we were chewing on Flintstone gummies. They were much better. After she had gone back to her dad’s house, I continued taking them. Then I got a little more adventurous and tried sour gummies. Oh they were so good, I could forget they were vitamins. I actually looked forward to that part of my morning pill routine.

And then, for some reason, I decided gummies are for sissies. I searched the aisles comparing labels. I wanted the most potent woman vitamin they had. I found a large bottle of  something and it was a buy one get one. That was great, cause vitamins are expensive. The next morning I was disturbed by how large these pills were. “Only slightly smaller than those horse pills I had to take when I was pregnant.” Can anyone tell me if they are smaller now? Has modern science progressed to the point where they squeeze everything the mother needs into a normal pill, a gummy, liquid syrup?? Anyway, I trudged through my morning routine for awhile. One morning I complained to my husband that they really were quite large and I didn’t like them.

“But don’t you have like a four month supply?” he asked into the mirror while he shaved.

I left the bathroom. I stopped taking the vitamins.

However, my dilemma only increased. I really wanted to take a vitamin, I just didn’t want those. And I didn’t want to waste my three and a half month supply. Finally I sheepishly returned to the vitamin aisle. My requirements were 1)gummy 2)cheap. I found something fitting that bill, checked myself out and was on my way.

Lesson learned: the best vitamins are the vitamins you take.

My first book excerpt (Whaaa, it needed a title!)

Gosh, it’s been almost a month since I’ve written for you. And what have I been doing while away from you? Pecking away with fury on my computer, iPad and leaving notes for myself on my iPhone. I also have finished 4 pieces of art. So below I’ve included an excerpt from the book.  (If you need a little more background on my mission, please read earlier blogs.) Read it through and let me know what you think. You can be honest, I can take it.

———————————————

When I first went out on short-term disability, I was seeing my therapist and medical doctor every week. The disability company said they would like reports after every visit. The doctors complied. The first couple months of my disability I was simply miserable. I made no attempt to hide that from my doctors. After about three months, I was feeling a bit better and wanted to see if I could go back to work, even if it was only part-time.  I think at that point I still didn’t recognize how ill I was and that my healing was on its own timetable, not mine. Neither of my doctors was excited about my decision to return, but they signed off on it.

Email Hell I quickly learned it was too soon.  I was extremely fatigued and at the same time completely restless. I sat at my desk, paralyzed by the ridiculous number of emails in my in-box. I went to meetings and sucked in my yarns while I tried to look interested. I didn’t feel like checking on my consultants’ work for quality purposes, or meeting with them to inspire.   My greatest fear was I’d have to take a supervisor call and not only would I not remember how to help the client, but I really wouldn’t be motivated to figure it out. Apparently my team had been warned to go easy on me, or they could see the tired apathy in my face. They continued to function like a well-trained crew of a battleship who had lost their captain in war. After about two weeks, I went back to full-time disability.

The challenge I began to have with being on disability was, how do I get well when every week or two weeks I have to prove I’m still sick? I felt stymied by the contradiction. I left my appointments feeling hopeful but confused. Was I really progressing or did the list of irregularities the doctors could come up with mean I was not? In my mind I had to separate my getting well from my going back to my job. I couldn’t worry so much about proving my continued illness in order to keep the disability check coming and my job waiting. I had to focus all my energies on getting well.

The ongoing battle with the disability company for more information from my doctors and my desire to keep as much of my situation as private as possible finally came to a head. I knew I wasn’t ready to return to full-time work and I wasn’t sure that even if I could, I wanted to return to the stress of my old job. I decided to resign. Again my doctors were not enthusiastic about my decision. I gave notice, barely made it to my desk those two weeks and then quietly faded away.

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That’s it for now. I’m waiting to hear from you. You also can email me your thoughts at myblueisblue@yahoo.com

What’s in a name?

 

Pastels

Pastels (Photo credit: ahisgett)

Hello readers,

There are a couple of issues I’ve been chewing on. I think I’ve made my decisions, but I thought I’d throw it out there for your feedback.

First up is the name of the movement: Blue is Blue – creating pastel art to overcome depression. What’s all that about, huh? Well, blue is blue is a pun.  Depression is also called being blue. I’m turning my depression (blue) into art (represented by the color blue.) I’ve had that part of the name square in my mind from the beginning. The second part of the name is my attempt to make my goal immediately known. However, I realized recently that it started as creating pastel art to combat depression. At some point it morphed into creating pastel art to OVERCOME depression. So I went back and forth on the meaning of combat vs overcome. And I not just thinking of the meaning to me, but what it will mean to folks who join the movement later.

It is certainly true that dealing with depression is a battle and it is an ongoing, lifelong battle really. Even if my doctors allow me to come off the medications, I’ll need to remain aware of my outlook and have coping techniques in place for stressful, or scary times. However, I’d like to think more about the reward than the struggle. (That’s part of my new mindset. Like that, huh?) So I believe “overcome” is where I am, where I’m going and where I want to take the good people who join me. I see “overcome” as a process too, but with a positive spin. (hey, you caught that one too?) So “overcome” it is. Unless you convince me otherwise.

My other issue has been signing my artwork. I have been really reluctant to sign my art. Is that odd? When I was a kid I dreamed of being a fashion designer, and having my name in the label! But Blue is Blue isn’t just about me. God gave me the direction to draw and is increasing my abilities daily. And there are so many women I hope to reach. I envision a team of 4 artists who understand depression and the 4 of us will be out doing art with people to help them heal. We will be writing and speaking on the subject across the nation.

There have been several public health awareness campaigns in the last twenty years. The most recent one to come to mind is a push to get kids to exercise daily. That’s what I see for Blue is Blue. So my compromise is I’m signing my work as “Blue”and I put the month and year. At some point in the future perhaps, there will be art that I don’t associate with my Blue movement and I’ll sign my name.  I’ll be happy to hear your thoughts on it, but you’re not going change my mind on that one.

 

10% of profits to TWLOHA

To Write Love on Her Arms

To Write Love on Her Arms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hey there,

You may recall in my post Aware of the Hurting I talked about To Write Love On Her Arms.  Well I want to talk about it some more.  The following is taken directly from their website:

“MISSION STATEMENT:

To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and to invest directly into treatment and recovery.

VISION:

The vision is that we actually believe these things…

You were created to love and be loved.  You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you’re part of a bigger story.  You need to know that your life matters.

We live in a difficult world, a broken world.  My friend Byron is very smart – he says that life is hard for most people most of the time.  We believe that everyone can relate to pain, that all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments.  You need to know that you’re not alone in the places you feel stuck.

We all wake to the human condition.  We wake to mystery and beauty but also to tragedy and loss.  Millions of people live with problems of pain.  Millions of homes are filled with questions – moments and seasons and cycles that come as thieves and aim to stay.  We know that pain is very real.  It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real, and that help is real.

You need to know that rescue is possible, that freedom is possible, that God is still in the business of redemption.”

TWLOHA has a campaign to high-school students and chapters on university campuses where students can raise awareness about depression and suicide and suggest help. A TWLOHA information tent can also be found at fairs and concerts.  It’s very much a grassroots type of non-profit.

I believe that their Mission and Vision complement Blue’s purpose. Especially important to me is their work with young people. I have decided that for the next year, 10% of profits from Blue is Blue will go to TWLOHA. And this is after the 10% to my church.

So when you purchase art or a book (early next year) you’ll be blessing two movements.  I’m excited to see all that we can accomplish together, you me and TWLOHA!